•Insurance protections ahead: Next year, the federal healthcare law will prevent insurers from denying coverage to anyone with a preexisting health condition or charging them more for the insurance.

"Cancer patients almost don't believe you when you tell them that," Flory said.

And, the benefits available will be better because of new federal requirements, said JoAnn Volk, project director at the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute.

"Plans with limited benefits that have a lot of gaps in them so you're not covered for the things you need" will be a thing of the past, Volk said.

For instance, insurers are no longer allowed to impose caps on annual and lifetime medical expenses, a crucial protection for cancer patients. New policies available next year for individuals and employees at small firms will also have annual limits on consumers' out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Starting Oct. 1, Californians can shop for a policy on the state's new health insurance marketplace, called Covered California, at http://www.coveredca.com. Plans take effect Jan. 1.

Wells said she's grateful for the insurance coverage she found, although she wishes she had more choices.

"I can only use the doctors they allow," she said of the program. "But who can complain when they're keeping you alive?"

business@latimes.com

Zamosky writes about healthcare and health insurance.